Insights June 22, 2020

Pandemic support and flexibility in the beer industry

Living Word
By Living Word

The coronavirus crisis is leaving its mark on us all, and many businesses are suffering. With such a rapidly changing marketplace, adaptability is key. Rather than focusing on growth, brewers are trying to stay afloat and keep hold of their market share while also looking after their staff and local communities.

With pubs and bars closed, beer festivals cancelled, and millions of litres of keg and cask beer poured out, brewers have had to be innovative to find opportunities to stay in business. Many have shifted production to bottles and cans rather than barrels, and found a more flexible approach to beer sales with web shops as well as curbside pickup and delivery services, cutting out the middle man. Some have even switched to making hand sanitiser.

Campaigning for beer

The UK-based consumer organisation CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), with its nearly 200,000 members, promotes high-quality beer and the importance of pubs as social hubs in communities. Following the pandemic and the closing of bars and pubs, the organisation kicked off a number of initiatives. The Pulling Together campaign, in partnership with SIBA (The Society of Independent Brewers) and Crowdfunder, backs the brewing and pub industry through this difficult time of little or no trade. The organisation has also created the Brew2You app, so that consumers can find and order drinks from their local pubs and breweries – a great success, as beer lovers have been ordering £50k worth of beer, cider and perries so far.

There is beery entertainment to enjoy from the comfort of your own home, too. For instance, CAMRA’s new podcast – Pubs. Pints. People. – brings interesting stories from the world of beer, cider and pubs every week. The virtual pub The Red (On)Lion, meanwhile, helps to tackle loneliness and social isolation when the country’s pubs are all closed. This online space will soon also stream pub quizzes and other activities for pub lovers.

Similarly, Simply Hops is organising the Five O’Clock Club, a virtual hangout to support thousands of breweries. Here, you can have a chat with your mates, colleagues and other beer lovers. For curious travellers, Sharp’s Brewery has launched the podcast Just Add Beer, which takes listeners on a gourmet mini break to Cornwall alongside top chefs from the region, while Hogs Back Brewery offers the new Pub at Home pack with beers for collection or home delivery – everything you need to bring the pub to your back garden.

Another new, interesting idea is Draught Drop, bringing draught beer from breweries directly to their customers, supporting the community while also protecting the environment by reducing packaging – so you can order fresh draught beer from your favourite local brewery straight to your doorstep.

What about the beloved pubs?

While brewing has been considered an essential industry during the pandemic and brewers have kept on brewing, pubs and bars have had to close, and many pub-goers have surely missed their usual haunts. These social hubs can be important for mental wellbeing and in the fight against loneliness, and it looks like they can finally prepare for re-opening from July 4th in the UK.

Adhering to strict health and safety measures such as cleaning and social distancing, pubs will also need to get rid of spoilt beer from the lockdown to free up space for freshly brewed beer. However, as brewing usually takes upwards of four weeks, the BBPA (British Beer & Pub Association) is urging the government to give enough notice, under the slogan Get Britain Brewing Again. The Campaign for Pubs has published #10PointstoSavePubs, including calls on the government as well as the pub sector to help publicans and prevent closures. The campaign unites publicans, pub campaigners, customers and suppliers, including some of the UK’s leading smaller brewers.

With any luck, these initiatives will help brewers and publicans to keep trading.